March 28, 2023

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been dealing with a number of injuries, with a list that only continues to get longer. As a result, players who have fallen out of the everyday lineup are getting opportunities to show that they belong. Some players like Brendan Gaunce are looking to regain status around the NHL, while others like Emil Bemstrom look to show management that they made the right call by drafting him.

Bemstrom is Running Out of Opportunities

Bemstrom was drafted five years ago, in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft. He eventually made the jump to North America from his native Sweden for the 2019-20 season, which has been his best performance in the NHL to date. He has continuously played well whenever he’s been in another league, whether it be the American Hockey League, international play, or the Finnish Liiga during the pandemic. Whenever it comes to the NHL though, he has been unable to consistently play well enough to grab a long-term roster spot despite quite a few opportunities. Although he’s currently only 23 years old, in this league young players will run out of chances very quickly if they don’t perform above expectations.

Emil Bemstrom Columbus Blue Jackets
Emil Bemstrom, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Considering this is Bemstrom’s fourth season on this side of the pond and he’s played a minimum of 20 games for the Blue Jackets over the past three seasons, the organization is certainly running out of patience. During two of the three aforementioned seasons, he’s played at least half of the season at the NHL level. It’s understandable that he struggled during the John Tortorella era, considering his skill-based playstyle didn’t fit the veteran coach’s favored criteria. The appointment of Brad Larsen as the head coach apparently hasn’t helped him though, as Bemstrom had arguably his worst performance in the NHL during the 2021-22 season.

Bemstrom’s 2022-23 Season So Far

Bemstrom has been playing very well with the Cleveland Monsters to start the 2022-23 season. At the time of his call-up to Columbus, he was the leading scorer for the Monsters with 14 points through 10 games. Even now, he’s currently tied for the lead with Kirill Marchenko who has 14 points through 12 games. It’s also worth noting that those 14 points are also tied for tenth in the American Hockey League at the time of writing, more than a week since Bemstrom has played a game in that league.

Related: Blue Jackets Can Still Make Most of Season Through the Monsters

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Now Bemstrom is getting his first game time for the Blue Jackets this season, and so far he has been impressive. Despite a fairly lackluster season debut against the Philadelphia Flyers, he had a highlight-reel goal against the New York Islanders as part of a two-point performance in his second game of the season. He’s now ready for the biggest opportunity of his career, as it appears he’ll be filling in on the first line following the announcement that Patrik Laine will be out for a few weeks with an ankle injury that he suffered in the previously mentioned game against the Islanders.

Playing with Blue Jackets’ superstar, Johnny Gaudreau, leaves Bemstrom with no excuses if he’s unable to perform consistently for the next 3-4 weeks. This is the best opportunity he’ll ever get in the NHL, and he needs to run with it if he’s going to force his way back into management’s plans for the future. If he’s unable to succeed this time, it’s hard to say exactly how many more chances he’ll get. Many of the fans have already turned against him, and he doesn’t seem to be one of the first options to fill in following an injury at this point. If he wants to become a long-term Blue Jacket, this is his biggest opportunity yet, as it’s unlikely he’ll get many more in the future.

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